January 31, 2008
Skiing the back section of the Ruhpolding course.
It’s been a few weeks since I wrote an update. In that time, the team finished the Ruhpolding world cup, competed at the Antholz world cup, and then had a brief three-day break before heading to Sweden for a pre-world-championships training camp.
Ruhpolding turned out to be a good, solid, world cup for me. Coming off a sub-par performance in Oberhof, I was happy to see my skiing improve. Although I am hoping to see further improvements, my skiing was good enough to put me into the top thirty for the first time this year. I placed 28th in the Sprint race and 29th in the Pursuit.
From Ruhpolding, it was on to Antholz, Italy for World Cup #6. I had reasonably solid performances throughout the week there, but at this level, “reasonably solid” doesn’t translate into a high position on the results list. Overall, I am happy with the way the last two world cups went leading into World Championships.
On the range before the relay in Ruhpolding.
After a grueling three-week racing stint, Per and Mikael scheduled in a few days of recovery. Fortunately for me, Caitlin had arrived a few days earlier to watch the races in Antholz. After the conclusion of racing, we set out for Venice and spent a couple of days touring the city and sampling a bit of the local wine. It was a great “recovery vacation” and by the time I got to Munich, I felt ready to tackle the next phase of the season: World Championships.
Cait and I in Venice.
For now, the team is back in Solleftea, Sweden (this is our fifth time here), doing some quality training and looking forward to the first races in Ostersund starting on February 9th. World Championships are by far the most important races of the year. Besides the Olympics, there is not a higher profile biathlon event. For this reason, the competition schedule allows for almost three weeks of preparation prior to the races. It is in this break that the most crucial training can make or break an athlete. Basically, the goal is to be peaked when you hit the starting line. Simple in theory – difficult in practice. For now we train, rest, and look forward to February 9th!
Jan. 11, 2008
Here is the post-race interview after the Ruhpolding World Cup Relay yesterday.
Hello to everyone in cyberspace. I’m in Ruhpolding, Germany at World Cup #5. Last night was the first of the three-race series here in Bavaria and it proved to be an exciting night. For the first time, the coaches chose to have me do the starting leg for the men’s relay. In the past, Jay Hakkinen as raced in that slot and I have usually gone on the second leg. It was a little bit different to be on the starting line with 19 other nations, waiting for the gunshot from the start official. To say the least, it was an electric moment. 15,000 people in the Ruhpolding stadium held their breath and then, as the signal shot went off, released an incredible blast of cheering that carried all 20 starters through the main stadium and out onto the course.
It was a lot of fun to be racing neck and neck out of the start and I found myself in a good position coming into the first shooting. I was able to hit all five prone targets and leave the range within contact of the race leaders. During standing, I used one extra round and was out of the range in a pack of three or four skiers from fourth place to around eighth. The last loop was grueling but I was able to stay with the pack and tag off to Jay Hakkinen just behind Sweden.
Jay had a great leg, skiing well, and shooting all of his targets using only one extra round. This put us in fourth position when the tag was handed off to Tim Burke. Tim has been at home training and this was his first race since the Hochfiltzen world cup almost a month ago. He was able to hold his own despite having traveled to Europe only a few days prior to the race. The final leg was handled by Jeremy Teela and he hung on to out-sprint the Czech Republic for an eighth place finish.
The eighth place is encouraging but I think we can do much better as the season progresses. Our main focus of course is the world championships in Ostersund, Sweden – more than one month away. For now, we are happy with the result and looking forward to the next couple of races here in Ruhpolding. We race a Sprint on Saturday and the top sixty competitors from that competition go on to race a Pursuit on Sunday.
I forgot to mention the Oberhof, Germany world cup last week! 22,000 people at each race! It was unbelievable to see that many fanatics of the sport in one arena. My parents, sister, and cousin (George and Elizabeth Bailey, Kendra Bailey, and Greg Hamm) made an admirable trip across the globe to see the competitions and I think they were quite impressed at the magnitude of the crowd. It was great to have the family support with so many German and Norwegian flags waving in the stadium. During the Sprint race there, I was able to clean both prone and standing, something which I had not done in world cup competition since last year’s Lahti, Finland world cup. It was nice to have a good shooting race but I was disappointed with my skiing. I felt flat and I just couldn’t get my body to hit a high race pace. In a field this competitive, it meant that I was pushed back to 46th place by the end of the race. However, I do feel better this week and I hope that I continue in a positive way throughout the coming weeks.
One of the coolest moments in Oberhof was before the Mass Start competition on Sunday morning. I brought my sister out on the course with me to take a few laps. We headed up the first ad biggest hill on the course to be greeted and cheered by around a thousand fans (prepping for the race, more than two hours ahead of the competition). I took out my digital camera and to take a small video and the crowd went crazy. Once they saw they were on camera they brought out their loudest cheers! I hope to post that video on the website soon but it will have to wait until another time. Until then…
Hochfiltzen (In The Austrian Tyrol Region), Austria
Jan. 1, 2008
Christmas at the Bailey residence: George/Pop (top), Elizabeth/Mom (mid-left), Kendra/Sis (middle), Me (mid-right), Caitlin (bottom), Flo (bottom-right), Daisy (bottom-left)
The New Year has arrived and so far the outlook seems good. I am at an Austrian hotel in the Tyrolean Alps. After spending about two weeks at home, I flew to Austria on the 28th of December. I was definitely a little bit sad to take off after such as short trip home but I am really excited for the upcoming races in Oberhof. The Oberhof races host some of the biggest crowds of any winter-sports venues. Numbers are routinely in the tens of thousands. If I’m not mistaken, last year there were roughly 20,000 people in the stands for each of the six world cup races there.
I will wait until the Oberhof world cup is over before I write too much about it. Instead, I should probably recap the last few weeks since I last posted. The results for the last two world cups were not what I would have hoped for but they were also not that bad. I had a 37th place in the opening 10km Sprint race in Hochfiltzen. So far, this has been the high point for the season.
After racing three times in Hochfiltzen, Jeremy and I headed to Pokljuka, Slovenia for World Cup #3. As you can see from the picture, Slovenia is a beautiful country. The town of Bled (where we stayed) is about thirty minutes’ drive from the venue. It has a medium sized lake with a few castles bordering the shore and an ancient church on a tiny island in the middle! All of these structures were definitely around long before any Europeans thought of traveling west to the Americas. That is one thing about Europe – When people refer to something as “old” it usually means several hundreds of years.
Getting back to the update, the Pokljuka Individual 20km was a bittersweet experience. Due to some tricky shooting conditions, I missed three targets in my first prone shooting. As I set out on my second skiing loop, Bernd showed me a magnetic board of my shots – all five of them sitting directly at 3 o’clock on the edge of the hit zone. I had miscalculated the winds and didn’t make the necessary site corrections. After this disappointing setback, I adjusted and hit the next 14 of 15 targets. This pulled me back into the top 50 but it wasn’t enough to get into the top 30. This left me in a typical biathlon situation – If I had taken a few site clicks, conceivably I would be looking at a top 20 finish rather than a top 50 performance.
Christmas skiing with Cait’s cousins. (From left to right) Cait, Molly Dingley, Austin Scholl (brother), Matt Oppenheim, Me.
I returned home, tired and in need of some rest after a grueling three-week racing stint. It was so nice to return home to Cait and Flo (our mutt) and our new house. In my seven-week absence, Cait had really spruced the place up! Rooms were painted, new furniture was in place, and a few cords of wood were stacked outside. It was a great homecoming.
The training conditions were great and I had a lot of fun skiing to the biathlon range from my back door for workouts! It just so happens that our house sits adjacent to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg cross-country and biathlon venue.
Christmas was a wonderful experience in the new place. Lake Placid has almost three feet of snow and looked idyllic on Christmas morning. Cait and I made the rounds to both of our families’ houses and finally ended up at a big Christmas dinner at the Scholl residence.
New Year’s Eve at Austrian Trend Sporthotel in Fieberbrunn, Austria. I can’t quite figure out the significance of the chimney-sweep and chinese chef outfits but they were wishing everyone good luck in the new year.
Sporthotel in the daylight. Beautiful weather in the Austrian Tyrol!
So now, I am training in Hochfiltzen for a few days, enjoying the New Year, and preparing for the Oberhof world cup. My parents, sister, and cousin will be in attendance in the Oberhof crowd and it will be good to have a few American cheers in the German-dominated stadium. I hope all of you are in good spirits. Until next time,
After leaving Finland on Monday morning, we arrived in Hochfiltzen, Austria to find a blanket of Tyrolean snow covering the entire town. This is a huge contrast from last year’s Austrian world cup that saw green grass and temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit.During the world cup in Finland, the rep from Alpina helped me out by pushing out a section of my racing boot to accommodate my feet. Alpina boots are made of materials which, when heated, can be molded to make a custom fit for any foot.
Perhaps the biggest change since leaving Scandinavia is the amount of daylight we enjoy here. After spending four weeks in Sweden and Finland, I was getting a little tired of the four hours of daylight per day. It was actually difficult to see where you were going at times during the afternoon races!
The races at the world cup in Kantiolahti didn’t go as I had hoped but at least I did well enough to make the cut for this week’s competition. It was an amazingly tough field of 120 competitors and I placed 61st and 67th in the Individual and Sprint races respectively. This week, only the top 90 competitors from Kantiolahti will be eligible to race in Hochfiltzen. I am looking forward to a different course profile and a brand new week of races.
Finally the world cup season has arrived. As I am writing this, I am less than 24 hours away from the start of the first race in Kantiolahti, Finland. Tomorrow, we will start the season off with a 20km Individual race. I will be on course with start number 113.
Over the past few weeks, the team has spent time in Torsby, Solleftia, and Ostersund, Sweden. During these respective training camps we practiced, prepared, fine-tuned – everything you could possibly think of to get ready for tomorrow. It is almost a relief to know that the long training season (starting April 23) is finally over and we can get down to what this sport is all about.
The other nice thing about the season starting is that we are now surrounded by other biathletes. As you can see in the photo, the range was packed today with athletes from all over the world. It is a good atmosphere to be in after weeks of training in such a small group.
One last thing, if you are interested in viewing the races live, click on the feed at the bottom right of this page. We start at 2:30pm Finnish time (7:30am EST). I will be headed out on course at 3:26pm (8:26am EST). I hope some of you will tune it.
Although it might sound like an odd title, the truth of the matter is that the US Biathlon Team has had more training camps in Torsby, Sweden over the last two years than anywhere else on earth. This is probably due to the fact that Torsby is home to the longest ski tunnel in the world. At any point in the year, one can walk through three or four glass doors and – presto! Instant winter.
The team convened in Torsby on November 5th after spending less than a week at our respective home bases following our October training camp in Utah. I did manage to pack in quite a lot while I was home for those six days. My fiancée Caitlin and I closed on our new house, successfully moved in, and I suppose we now consider ourselves homeowners. I had just enough time in between the moving to get some recovery training in, pack for six weeks in Europe, and leave Cait with an immense assortment of unpacked cardboard boxes. What a guy!
Now, after months of training and preparation, the race season is fast approaching. Tomorrow we head to the east side of Sweden and the town of Solleftia. We will be training there until the snow gets better elsewhere. Just a couple of weeks and the first world cups will be here! The first race is a 20km Individual in Finland on the afternoon of November 29th. If you’re interested in watching the races click on the link at the bottom right of this page.
Finally, thank you for checking out my site. I would like to thank Kris Seymour for helping me put this all together. Please check back as much as you like. I have every intention of posting updates frequently. Cheers.
All-American Guitar-Picking, Songwriting, Ski Shooter
During one of my training sessions in 1996 at the Mt. Van Hovenberg biathlon range near Lake Placid, Kris Seymour, the New York Ski Education Foundation coach asked me if I would let these two young guys try shooting and talk to them a little about biathlon. Both Lowell Bailey and his best friend, Tim Burke, then 15 and 14 years old, didn’t say much and kind of looked down and pawed the dirt with their feet as Kris and I got them set up to shoot…..(more)